Last week I had a distressing encounter on a dog walk. I was tired, preoccupied and walking to process some news. A young man took it upon himself to mock me and deride me about staring at him when he drove past me. It was horrible. I was taken aback and frightened. He wouldn’t stop and I got angry. I then went to “tell his mum” .. that was a BIG mistake. I had expected her to stop him accusing me of nonsense and leave me alone. Instead he carried on laughing at me and strutting his stuff and I became the wrong one.

I have pondered on the male entitlement and misogyny that emerged in this encounter. How I felt frightened and alone and came away feeling wretched and so misunderstood.

I shouldn’t have to think about whether I consider my actions when a noisy car drives by. I hadn’t even thought that he would notice that I had stopped walking as he drove past me. I stop to calm myself and breath. When an exhaust pops or an engine revs I have a visceral reaction. YES I am over sensitive but that doesn’t mean anyone has the right to then turn that into ridicule.

I have been wondering about whether to share but at the same time these so called small acts of sexism and aggression might be considered of no consequence. However I wonder how his sense of entitlement might manifest when he is frustrated in other contexts. I am sure he has no insight and it upset me in a world where this can escalate into abuse and violence.

I am a firm believer in calling out these things but walking the talk of zero tolerance has consequences.

It took me a long time to calm down after this encounter and I have been left wondering what I could have done differently. I shouldn’t have to go through it and nor should anyone else.


Starting anew

I haven’t written here for a while. I don’t think I knew what I wanted to explore. I have found not working very hard and I had not realised what I could have been doing with my energy.

Shame, regret and guilt are energy drains and also deplete creative endeavours. I am very aware that I have a huge amount of privilege and wish to find a way of undoing harms from years ago.

I have written here about my intentions and mean to build on this soon.


Dare I?

I believe that working for too long in one sector of health care leads to blinkered viewpoints, blind spots, averted gazes and collective narcissism. Over the last 7 years I have witnessed practitioners believing that they have the moral high ground (unquestioning position) and forget that they are there to look after and care for beneficiaries of the service.

They talk about their workplace being “like home” and then treat visitors with hostility as if they are an inconvenience, making the place untidy and requiring attention. That attention given grudgingly and sparingly. Contingent and conditional care provision.

They don’t think they should be at work to feel good about what they do and then exclude those not in their “in group”. I have witnessed some terrible behaviours. Hostile exchanges, defensive stances and downright lies. People telling me they have done something when the overwhelming evidence is that they have not done it – that I have been lied to by senior staff who want me to be the problem because they have realised that I am not ignoring their passive stances or the ways they cut corners.


I want to publicly state a warning. 

We need to be wary of health care professionals who avoid opportunities to explore their blind spots. Be wary of those who are defensive and passive aggressive when those opportunities present themselves. Stay curious about those who fold their arms in umbrage in meetings, who talk over others and start parroting phrases that are not theirs to speak. Appropriation and grandstanding are red flags to me when it comes to attitudes in the workplace. We need courage to make sure we tackle troubling intransigence – that collective narcissism is troublesome knowledge and a nettlesome subject to deal with – it needs grasping not brushing passed.

Thinking a lot

I seem to have internalised messages of oppression and subjugation rather than those of privilege and entitlement. I vividly remember parking up at work in tears and wondering why I didn’t feel I could step into my power. Pondering on how I felt alliance with women of colour, women who wrote from minoritized groups – that as a white, cis, heterosexual and middle-class woman I didn’t feel like I belonged; had never belonged. That I felt unease and discomfort – talked over and ignored. I just didn’t have the energy and where with all to make a fuss and shake the status quo. I felt out of place, excluded and was curious even as I wept. 

Reading Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, Sarah Ahmed, Bernardine Evaristo I noticed how their observations, anger, insights, knowledge resonate a great deal. What is going on? What can I do with it?

Now I am able to make choices, not worry too much about institutional reputation, free-range in the knowledge landscape and find a way of making a difference and addressing injustice. 

Doesn’t that sound exciting?

It should but instead I am finding myself feeling drained and fatigued. Physical responses to fear and anxiety about who am I to make claims about insights? How dare I? These are the experiences I had when I was undertaking my PhD back in the late 1990’s. I experienced depression and was unwell for quite a while because I could not find the energy and belief that was required to write up my research. What has compounded the issue for me is that NOBODY within academia bothered to help me. Instead, I found myself helping others, accelerating their completion, and then being terminated without warning.

I am still wounded by that experience and the legacy of that negligence and neglect hangs about 20 yrs later. I now can write what I want and explore the issues I see as mattering. I am not constrained or restrained by rules or regulations as to what warrants a worthwhile project. I can quite literally “please myself” BUT the internalised messages from the past are inhibiting and hindering my wish to flourish and make a fuss. I want to stir things up – rattle cages and challenge received wisdom. 

The physical effects of this are tricky – powering down, feeling tired and unworthy are all warning signs that I am wary about in relation to my well-being. Thing is I have allowed other people’s stuff, other people’s reaction to my insights to STOP me doing the things that matter to me. 

I also think I have a processing issue about finishing things – that I have real difficulties in organising and completing things – holding the bigger picture in my mind without getting overwhelmed. The overwhelm leads to avoidance and distraction. I then feel cluttered and unfocussed. It is exhausting and I want to find a solution to this by limiting my gaze, taking bite size approaches and see it as the big project as incremental steps. I KNOW that this is the way to work and that I will then have less overwhelm. I can go for walks, do the gardening and get distracted if I set myself goals in a way that feels different to the experiences and habits that were a result of my difficulties in academia. I wrote my MSc up at work – I was motivated and energised sitting at my work desk. It felt important, purposeful, and meaningful writing it up within the context of the research (professional practice). I don’t have that now – I spend too long on my own and isolated from the projects, politics and people that help me focus on what matters. I need to find a way of connecting and asking for help. I am not very good asking for help and connecting with people. It is a legacy of a long time ago when I internalised the necessity of not making a fuss, getting on with it and self-sufficiency.

Getting back to here

It’s been a funny old time hasn’t it? I have had little energy and no real impetus to get back to blogging. I have been curious as to what that is about. I have concluded that it is complicated, I have been writing A LOT and thinking A LOT!!

Not working is discombulating – I have got very used to institutions both holding me and frustrating me. I am very interested in grip and that we need to pay attention to what might be unconscious behaviours in what we find hard to let go of.

I am bored, listless and feel a little useless. I need to find purpose and meaning in a writing life. Celebrate agency and autonomy rather than run away from them. My PhD experience and repression. How I wasn’t enabled or helped when encountering difficulties in my career. lots of internalised negatives are getting excavated.

Reading How to Fail by Elizabeth Day as been insightful and made me see how being retired I am meant to shut up, pootle about and be invisible.

Not going to do that… too much matters to me that keeps being overlooked, ignored or suppressed. People are harmed.

Starting to think I might need to do this more often and see what emerges.

It is 7 years since I became unexpectedly unbusy. A horrible episode in my life that happens to many others. We are silenced and told to stay in our place. I know that I have recovered from the experience 7 years ago but the learning needs to be shared. The factors impacting on my experience haven’t gone away – in fact the last 2 years has amplified injustices.

Not sure where this is going but it felt important to share.

Time to step up

I have been away from blogging for a while and I wonder why that might be …I don’t think I thought I had anything worthwhile to share but I am not sure that is true.

I am frustrated by my wandering brain and my inability to focus on a single subject/topic to develop an expertise in. I suspect this is just the way I am and at 60 I am not going to be able to narrow my gaze. Instead I am going to stop discounting and dismissing my thoughts and feelings about health and education. Instead I am going to start tracking and being more systematic about my thinking. I do need to rein in some of my reading and the distractions.. a lot of it is to do with never feeling like I am enough or know enough.. it’s a perfectionist trait that had stayed in my unconscious until recently. Thanks to the wonderful students I worked with until November 2020 I have learnt a huge amount by listening to them and helping them navigate their troubles and difficulties.

Listening to young people talk about current challenges in education and professional practice is a privilege … responding to their observations and respecting their perspective is something I enjoyed. I did find it tricky at times because of the systemic and structural issues that seemed to get in the way of thriving and flourishing. I have stayed curious since I left work last year and explored why I got so frustrated and angry with what was going on for me and the students.

I don’t have any answers.. I don’t think there are any neat solutions and I do believe that we need better ways of thinking about what is going on and be more respectful, listen more and be more imaginative about the knowledge we include and consider legitimate. Let’s question established hierarchies and unhelpful statements of opposites…as though we can reduce and simplify human experience into statements that require us to take sides or silence ourselves lest we might not fit in.

I am going to start mapping my energy levels and my responses to issues and I am hoping that with good conversations and more focussed reading I might feel more confident about what it is I might be about as I enter a post working life identity…

On being stuck

It’s May already. Where has the time gone? I am feeling very much out of sorts. Low energy, easily depleted. Anxious.

I know that this is about dormancy. About time to find my next step. I am afraid. The experience of 6 years ago is getting in the way of thriving. I know I did go through a traumatic experience but I don’t want to admit to being post-traumatic.

I am also tired of helping people. I need help myself but I don’t know how to ask or what that help might look like. I’ve been sorting & fixing since I was 9. It feels a hard habit to break. Also there is a perverse habit here too. Harming myself….. self-sabotage.

Not sure what this is all about but feel it is important to commit to the page. I’m irritable and frustrated, not sure what’s going on but it feels like a turning point.

On not knowing the answers

I don’t know about you but I am finding it really challenging to get going and access motivations. I feel listless and slump quite quickly. I might get a surge of energy when I’m cross or upset BUT maintenance and sustainability is a real issue for me as we reach the end of February. I am not sure where to access the oomph! I need to get things done. I walk, read and write but I seem to find a sense of urgency and therefore an urge to get things completed almost impossible. No one asking me to do things and no one encouraging me to achieve a deadline. It all feels a bit purposeless and aimless and I am sure I am not the only one feeling like this.

I am really concerned that this phenomenon isn’t being acknowledged. This chronic and relentless dissipation of energy can be very damaging. It feels like a rolling and pernicious addition to the trauma that we are all experiencing and we are all finding it hard to articulate. Connections we rely on to boost our batteries are not happening and it feels like there is no one taking or grasping response-ability to explore recovery plans.

Reading Cal Flyn’s book Islands of Abandonment (https://www.calflyn.com) is really helping me think about what we might need to be doing, being and developing to ensure we don’t all collapse from holding so much in our psyche.

Ecosystems that have sprung up after desolation and ruin might well be lessons for us as humans in not going back to where we were but being different. There are parallels with the natural world and we can learn from recuperation and restoration but it requires compassion and curiosity. Let’s not go back to where we were before this all started.

For years now there have been plenty of narratives about burnout, limitations and a crisis of confidence – why not acknowledge that and develop difference. I don’t have the answers but I can see the allure of safety in familiarity BUT that needs to be questioned.

I am finding all of this really difficult and get irritated and frustrated with leaders and people with influence. At the same time I also need to acknowledge my privilege… I have time and resource at the moment. Being made redundant has to be a gift and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to influence future plans. I just need to unlearn some stuff – particularly about valuing my perspective and what I bring to the discussions. Feeling lesser and other is horrible and being cast aside because of assumptions about my age and the challenges I present might actually be the opportunity I need to grasp.

If not now, when? It is a very new feeling and yet the sceptre of past experiences and the depletion of energy is never far away. Feels like that I am noticing and paying attention to new things and staying with the trouble (1). Ignoring or avoiding trouble(s) is a trait I find increasingly hard to tolerate and I now see it all around. We have all been disrupted and there might be some valuable knowledge to be utilised.

It is time we were bold and imaginative – I don’t think there is any choice.

1 https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Staying_with_the_Trouble.html?id=ZvDgDAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y

Inbetweenness: on the edge of things

I am interested in understanding what is going on and using difficulties and stuckness as a site for learning. I have had a very long relationship with reflection and learning from experience and here I am with a rich vein of experience going on. I must stop and value this right now. Instead of discounting and dismissing I am pretty sure I have something valuable and of value going on right now. Age, gender, circumstance, privilege, and position need to be taken into account and notice taken of what is going on. It is really challenging, I am used to discounting and moving on. Letting go of emotional ties first so I don’t get hurt and damaged by loss. I care deeply about certain things and I need to take note of this in relation to what is changing for me right now. I have experience and knowledge that I would like to share to help others but I think I might need to be more circumspect about with whom I share my stuff. I am now more aware of vampires and those who appropriate. Instead of needing to be needed I am now more careful about who might deserve my time and energy. It isn’t easy but I am noticing a shift. It’s not a quick fix either and right now it feels really difficult but I am going to “stay with the trouble” and “roll with resistance”.

It feels important that ordinary stuff is taken notice of and valued.. we compete even with our troubles. Something I learnt early on in nursing. Atrocity stories mean top trumping out troubles and discounting our subjective suffering. I don’t think it’s very good for us to do this and I am going to stop. It has taken me over 50 years to notice much of this but I am beginning to appreciate that it’s never too late and we all have capacity to grow and develop….

In between

There are layers and something interesting might happen

What if you found yourself making sense and then what if you don’t and it doesn’t matter anymore because nothing does.

What if you keep looking for answers without really knowing the questions?

What if we just don’t really know, will never know. Keep travelling in circles.

Boundaries and boxes curtail and render limited.

A lifetime of habit is hard to break but not impossible. Not looking back but forward.

Making connections and ways in that haven’t been noticed before and unlearning stuff. Leaving it all behind and not chasing a trail.